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The conclusion of the Legends Interview

By Parminio
July 19 2005

Gentlemen, welcome back and thank you once again for attending. To get things rolling once more, lets get to the question: What is your opinion on Formula 1 cars today in general? Jim Clark: This is hard for me. I don’t really like them. I’m sure Ayrton and Bruce can make a better comment than I can about it, but I simply don’t like them. To me, they’re more like aircraft now than cars. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still like to give one a go, but to me…I’m sorry…those aren’t cars anymore. I don’t know what they are. Really…I’m more than a bit lost on it.

Alberto Ascari: I agree with Jim completely. To me, they are not cars. I don’t, like Jim said, know what they are but they are not cars for sure. I would like to say as well that they are beautiful, but it just to me is not a car.

Ayrton Senna: I love them with a few exceptions. These cars have too much computer control. It is not just the traction control, it is everything. They used to call us drivers, but today they call them pilots. With all of the computer things on the car, that is what they pretty much are. Again, this sport is about driving, not computers. Get rid of the computers.

Bruce McLaren: What Aryton said. I really love the cars. I have no problem with them as they are other than I just don’t think that a computer programmer should have more influence on the cars performance than the driver does. To go back to what Jimmy and Alberto said, they never really got to play around with a car with wings. Well, Jimmy very little at all and Alberto never…so I can understand why they don’t like them. What I don’t like are, like Ayrton said, all the computer inputs to the car. I don’t like all the telemetry either. In my opinion, they should axe all the computer controls and put gauges back in the car with a shifter. Again, it’s supposed to be about driving…not a software glitch.

Do you think the materials like carbon fiber and titanium are over the top?

Jim Clark: I don’t. I know they cost a whole lot of money, but I don’t think the material you use is the problem. Like Bruce said, I think the most major downfall is that some guy punching a keyboard has a whole lot more to do with how the car performs than the driver does in a lot of cases.

Alberto Ascari: I do not know. I do not think the material matters so much, but I do not like how the cars these days just shatter like a glass. That I do not like at all.

Ayrton Senna: I think the materials are fine. Like Jim said, it’s more of what goes on underneath with the computers that bothers me than anything else. The sport is supposed to be a show of the fastest cars, so I agree with using a material that will make the car faster. What I do not agree with is making a control that makes the car quicker and covers up the drivers’ talent or lack of it. It goes back to what I said about the tracks: These guys do not have to respect the cars either. The car can almost do no wrong…especially when you are on the gas. The starts are a joke. They are not supposed to have the launch control thing any more, and they are not supposed to use the traction control on the start, but I don’t see anybody spin the tires. How? I am sorry, but I don’t remember ever being able to put that much horsepower to the ground without breaking at least a little bit loose.

Bruce McLaren: I’m fine with the materials too. Ayrton made another good point though: How DO they get off the line like that with no traction or throttle control? It is pretty silly. I mean, if they have throttle control that great then they shouldn’t need the traction control to begin with. I heard they map the engine a certain way that makes it legal…but I’m getting ahead of the conversation I think.

So it’s not really the way the car is built, it’s just the electronics involved?

Yes! (collective)

Jim Clark: I would add though that I don’t like all the rules on the cars construction…am I jumping ahead here?

No, rules on car construction discussion is just fine…the later half has to do with general rules of racing. Please continue.

Jim Clark: For instance, I don’t like that every engine has to be a V-10. What is that all about? Part of the beauty of the way things used to be was the big variety you had. V-8’s, 10’s, 12’s, 16’s for God’s sake…you never knew what somebody would show up with. And you know, as long as it’s the same internal size that the rules allow for, who cares? I think the variety missing is really hurting the sport as well.

Bruce McLaren: That’s a good point, but back to the starts since you said that: There is nothing quite as exciting as a standing start, and that goes for any form of motor sport. The smoke, the sliding…it’s all a part of the excitement. I don’t think any type of traction management or engine management system should be allowed on the car. Period.

What about the basic rule of car construction? Spoiler size, the height, weight, width and so forth?

Jim Clark: So long as it’s the same for everybody, I don’t see a problem. The problem I do see, is that the rules are slowly making the cars more and more identical. I don’t like that at all. I think the rules on the car should be a bit more free…you know, to where they can actually build different cars. That was the thing too in my day. You just never knew what anybody would show up with…and half the time, they didn’t know either. There was a huge question mark about ‘will this work’. Again, it was variety. They still have a bit of that today, but it’s not nearly what it was. I think they are taking the car builders more and more out of the ability to make a unique car. Not one that breaks the rules or something like that…but one that is just really, really good…that went down a road of construction that nobody else went down. You know? I’m sorry…I don’t think I’m saying that right.

Alberto Ascari: No, no…what you say is right. It was a much different thing then. We did not have to have a lot of the same things in our cars. The car was almost always original no matter who you were. We would of course try to learn from somebody else…you know, to look at their car and try to see if there was something we could do to make ours like theirs if it was better…but it was not the same. It was very hard then. Most times, you could only look in wonder. It made the men that build the cars very upset. It was so good. It was a challenge then to find something for the car. A new way. But when you start to make these rules about how to build the car, then I think the car has to be built the same as the other mans car. I know they are different now as well, but they I do not think are nearly as different as they were for us then. The rules do not allow that kind of freedom to go in a different direction now.

Ayrton Senna: I agree with Jim and Alberto completely. And before you say it Bruce, sorry I did not say anything sooner, but I saw it coming. (collective laughter) I was there for the big change on that…the rules that is. It started getting more and more restrictive. It was not like the earlier days. I think Jackie should be here for this part. He can tell you about those things and what Tyrell did. It is also like Jim’s days…when the Ferrari was so different from the Lotus, which was of course nothing like the BRM. They were just so different in every way. I think we need that back now. I think that and the computers being made illegal is the way back as well.

Bruce McLaren: I don’t really think I can add much to that. It is hard to say that the sport you love is going down hill, but it is. It’s the same with everything really…even food. You make a dish that everybody loves, then the next thing you know the cook wants to change the recipe. Why? I tell you this though, even if they decide to not go back to some of the things we’ve discussed, the very least they need to do is make rule changes more permanent. Changing rules every single year is a bloody mess. If they had done that in our day, Formula 1 would have been dead before 1975. We built cars as we saw fit. It was our money. Today, you have to build a car as they see fit…and that has changed every single year. That is a bloody mess and is totally unacceptable. You simply can NOT have that sort of thing going on in a sport of any kind.

Thank you gentlemen. Now, moving on to the basic rules…what do you think about todays qualifying?

Jim Clark: Again, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. I like our old style of practice sessions. It gave you plenty of time to check out the car and get your grid position nailed down. Everything you needed to do you did then, and we had some fans turn out. You also didn’t have a lot of guys sitting in the garage the whole time, because that’s all the time you got. That was it and you’d better make the most of it.

Alberto Ascari: Yes. Jim is right. I understand that they want to make the event of the race last longer…to have different days to sell the tickets for to make more money…but it is not the same show. A three day affair at the track is too much for me. I do not like it. It is a waste of not only the fans time but the teams time. Most of them only take the few minutes if any time at all anyway, so what is the point?

Ayrton Senna: I agree with them. I have nothing to add really.

Bruce McLaren: I am with them, but I have VERY strong dislike for the way it is done now. They keep trying to disguise the constant changing of qualifying by saying “we want to improve the show”. That is not only a blatant lie in my opinion; it’s a bloody stupid lie on top of that. If you want to make the show worth seeing, you have to do two things: Condense the show to a shorter period of time and make that time an absolute MUST for the teams to use. In the old days, you hated every second you couldn’t be out there turning laps. Even as recent as the mid to late ‘90’s, and Aryton can vouch for this I’m sure, you had every car on the track at once for that last ditch effort to squeeze out one more 10th of a second. THAT is what people love to see…desperation. An all out effort. Balls to the wall, give it hell, all or nothing, nobody comes back alive without victory. THAT is what is missing now. I hate what they’re doing by trying to make an extra buck off an extra day or an extra session that nobody uses that doesn’t need to be there in the first place.

What about drivers rules and teams rules outside of the FIA? For instance, you’ve all no doubt been following the test agreement signed by everyone save Ferrari. What do you think about that sort of thing, and do you agree with it? Your toughts on that.

Jim Clark: I’m not normally a very vocal man, but I can’t believe it’s come to this. I can’t stand it. I just can’t stand it. Look, we all had our little agreements back in the day, but mostly they were about not killing each other at certain points of the track…or we’d give a heads up if there was some concrete coming up or a dead cow on the track. We’d also make sure to warn the guy behind us if we had a problem. You know, simple, common sense things. I still had no problem putting a tire off to blind you if you got too close though. Graham was the best at that. You had to be REAL careful behind him…he’d give you a mouth full of dirt in an instant. As far as this testing deal goes, what a waste of time. Look, there are the rules and that’s it. When you go making rules outside of the actual rules that are not even enforceable to begin with, you just shot yourself, your sport and your fans in the foot. I don’t mean to go off on a rant here, but I think these ‘Gentlemen’s Agreements’ should be outlawed. I don’t think anybody or anyone should be able to make their own set of rules outside of the actual rules, and I don’t care if it’s to save lives, money, whatever. You play by the rules of the sport. If you don’t like them, get the hell out…but you do NOT start making up some kind of an agreement that has no power at all and is outside of the actual rules. It’s like making beef gravy to pour over your poached eggs. It simply has no business being there. The sooner these drivers, teams and team owners and manufacturers get back to just going for broke with the rules they’re given and NOTHING else, the better off everyone involved is going to be.

Alberto Ascari: I was very surprised that they made up this rule, this test agreement. I do not understand the idea really. Maybe I’m just too far out from these days and time to understand, but for me it is a thing you do: get in the car as much as you can to get better. Not just as a driver, but to make the car faster. We did not have the luxury back in my time to do this very much. We did not have the ways to move things all over that quickly…to where the tracks are to test. We did have our factory though and for me it was a great thing. We would drive the roads to test. Anything. Any chance that we got to do it we did it. I don’t understand not doing it. That is what the sport is, is it not?

Aryton Senna: I think what Alberto is saying is that testing has been, is, and should always be up to the team. If they can do it, do it. If you can not afford it, tough luck.

Alberto Ascari: (Laughs) Yes…that is it.

Aryton Senna: I tell you this: For someone to sign a testing agreement to limit testing to save cost that just spent a quarter of a billion dollars on a facility and tens of millions of dollars on a mobile office to take to tracks is, to me, completely stupid.

Bruce McLaren: Watch it!
Collective Laughter
Bruce McLaren: Just kidding. Really, Aryton makes a good point. A VERY good point. Look at all the facilities, wind tunnels and the like, buses, motor coaches that have more creature comforts than a four star hotel, the parties and everything else that goes with it, but they can’t afford to test the car?! I’m sorry, but that has got to be the most ass backward thing I have ever heard of. I tip my hat to Ferrari really for not signing it. Much as I hate to admit it, right now I think they’re the only ones NOT being hypocritical over this testing issue.

So in the interest of cutting cost, what do you do?

Jim Clark: Do what we did: Ride half the season on the same tires.
(collective laughter)
Jim Clark: No, really…I don’t know. I’m a driver. I drive. I’ll sit in any car you put out there in front of me and drive it the best I can. Money doesn’t concern me. It never did.

Alberto Ascari: I am with Jim. The money is not my problem. The only thing I can think of would be to go back to the old weekend. You have one practice session to qualify on the Saturday and then you race on the Sunday. The extra day is not needed. Nobody is really using it today anyway right? I don’t see very many fans there either right? That is more money wasted to get the track for that day and of course paying all of your workers that day and all of that and they do not even use it. What is the point in doing that? Take the 18 or how many days it is and add up all that money. That is I think a good amount of money to be saved. Not only that but I am thinking that it makes the better show…you know, what we were saying about the qualifying and racing. It makes it more like it was. I am sorry, but Formula 1 was not made in these last 10 years. We made it. All of us. It is we that made this Formula 1 what it is and we did it the way that we did it. Now, over these last 10 years or so it has suffered greatly. Why? It is a simple answer: You changed what did not need to be changed.

Aryton Senna: Well said. I can only add that if you have to save money, maybe you should not be in the sport. I know that may make some people angry, but so what? If you cannot afford the house, do not buy it. If you cannot afford the check, do not go out to dinner. If you cannot afford to race, do not go racing.

Bruce McLaren: Racing has always been expensive. The amount they spend now is outrageous, but even in our days it was just as outrageous. That’s something most people don’t consider today: Do you have any idea how hard it was to come up with a thousand dollars in the 60’s? You might as well try to buy the crown jewels. You do what you can. If you can’t do it, get out of it or go to work for somebody else. When Dan couldn’t swing it anymore I was as crushed as he was, but hey…that happens. It didn’t end his career by a long shot. I think what you have now are team owners and manufacturers wanting to make a ton of money, not just go racing. Again, not to sound like a broken record, but if you’re in it for any other reason than to go racing, then you’re a fool and you do not belong there.

What do you think about the scoring system for the championship today?

Jim Clark: I don’t like it. It doesn’t award enough for the win. I like the old system better. I also think they should go back to giving a point for pole and maybe a point for fastest lap. Those odd points add up, and rather than butcher the point system and victory award to what it is, you add back those points.

Alberto Ascari: I agree with Jim. Put the points back, and add the pole and fast lap point.

Aryton Senna: Agree with them.

Bruce McLaren: Jimmy said it all. The only other thing I would add, is that the fast lap and pole points go to the driver only, not the constructor. I think those achievements should be awarded not to the car builder, but just the driver that manages to pull it off.

One last question: In the interest of safety…you’ve all heard that. Your thoughts on the safety in Formula 1 these days and does it affect the show?

Jim Clark: I think Indianapolis says it all. Look, being safe…that’s a good thing. If we had half the measures back then that they do now, who knows? Maybe a lot of things wouldn’t have happened. The sad part for me though is that’s what made it so special. It’s like they want to have a safe war today. There is no such thing. When you go to war, you or somebody you know is without doubt going to die. It’s going to happen. Again, I’m sorry, but if the first thing on your mind is being safe, stay in the stands.

Alberto Ascari: Safety. It is necessary yes, but I think it is going too far. Like Ayrton had said before, drivers don’t have to respect the car or the track anymore because they are so safe. That is to me a bigger problem. Without having to have that respect, they go that much faster and brake that much later and push that much harder because nothing will happen to them. When it does happen then everyone panics. The more safe you make something the harder someone is going to push it…so to me it never ends. I agree with Jim. If you are worried so much about the safety, play cards.

Aryton Senna: This is another stupid thing. Safety, safety, safety. I would like to give a point: My accident. It was simple. What do they do? They put in a chicane. What does that do? Nothing. If it doesn’t happen there anymore, it will happen someplace else eventually. It’s just a matter of time. What it does do though is spoil a once great track. How is that in the best interest of the sport?

Bruce McLaren: I agree with them totally. I would like to add that with the cars built the way they are now, it is incredibly safe. The Burti accident, Trulli last year, Rubens and that suspension failure…those were all terrible accidents. In our day, you were gone. Looking at those accidents though, the car is what saved them, not the track. Every one of those guys hit either tires or dirt, just like we would have. That said, I think the cars are safe enough to withstand any track…so stop butchering the tracks.

Gentlemen, thank you! It’s been both a pleasure and an honor. This concludes the Legends Interview.

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